Facebook Takes On Angie’s List And Yelp With New Site For Finding Top-Rated Local Businesses

Facebook is quietly testing a new feature that will direct users to the best-rated and reviewed local service providers in their area. At the easy-to-access URL Facebook.com/services, the social network has compiled a searchable directory of professional service providers, like contractors, painters, plumbers, doctors’ offices, auto repair techs, child care providers, pet groomers, salons, event planners, decorators, and much more. The effort is similar to both Amazon and Google’s recent moves to connect customers with home and local service providers, in an effort to unseat industry giants like Angie’s List and Yelp by leveraging both the strength and broad reach of their respective platforms.

The new feature was first spotted by the blog Search Engine Land, following a tip from another site.

What’s interesting is that while Amazon and Google have both been targeting the fragmented home services market – Amazon with the launch of its own nationwide “Home Services” destination in March, and Google with an extension to AdWords as its angle into the space – Facebook’s effort expands beyond local pros to include other types of businesses, too.

The site itself is simply laid out, with a search box for the category of business you want to research. It also defaults to your current location, pulling in a background image of the city in question. The site is only available on the desktop, though Facebook does offer a way to find local businesses on mobile through the “Nearby Places” feature at the bottom of its navigation, below Events, Groups, Pages, Apps, and more.

Currently, the Facebook.com/services page, at first glance, only seems to highlight area service providers like spas, business services, automotive services, pet services, and more – all of which are featured as thumbnail images above the larger directory of professional services below. (There are over 80 business types that are linked in this directory, but there are even more available via the search box.)

However, as you’ll discover when you actually type into the search box on the site, you’re able to query up all sorts of local businesses – including those you may have otherwise searched for on sites like Yelp – such as restaurants, bars, or nightclubs, for example. Or you can search for travel-related businesses like hotels, or tours and sightseeing. Basically, the site includes nearly any business that has a Facebook Page, it seems.

After performing a search, business information is provided thanks to the data Facebook already has from the businesses’ Pages, including details like their description, phone number, hours of operation, location, and ratings and reviews. It’s unclear at this time how Facebook is ranking the search results, as it’s clearly taking more than ratings alone into play. That is, higher-rated businesses which have more ratings and reviews than others aren’t necessarily at the top of the list.

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That could mean that Facebook is using other data it knows about the logged-in user, like whether they’ve visited the Page, rated the business, have liked the page, or had friends who liked the page, and so on. But that’s all just speculation for the time being. (We’ve asked Facebook if it could clarify how this works, and will update if more information is provided.)

The search results page also shows where the businesses are located on a map, which means that Facebook could potentially even eat into Google’s territory as well, at least as a research tool for finding nearby businesses and service providers.

It’s not surprising to see Facebook move into this area. After all, the company has a treasure trove of business data on its site.

Earlier this month, Facebook said it had over 50 million active business Pages on its social network, which is up from 40 million this April. And it has been expanding the features available to business owners, rolling out everything from Buy buttons and other calls-of-action to most recently, new communication tools that make it easier for customers to chat with businesses and see how quickly they respond.

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Based on some brief tests, it appears that Facebook’s Services site is not limited to the U.S., as we were able to search for businesses across Asia, Europe and elsewhere.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment.

Update: Facebook offered the following comment: “We’re in the early stages of testing a way for people to easily find more Pages for the services they’re interested in.”